Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top ten trade destinations for Jose Reyes

The Mets are 12-18 as I write this, with a monumental payroll, an ownership group that has been fatally crippled by the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, and a fan base that seems to be staying away in droves. They also have the very short-term rights to Jose Reyes, one of the few shortstops in MLB who can be a positive on offense and defense, and a man who is clearly in the midst of a highly successful contract year. Where will he be collecting his mail in the second half of 2011?

10) Pittsburgh. As I write this, the Pirates are 15-16, which nearly qualifies for ticker-tape parades in the Yinz, seeing how they haven't had a winning season since most of us didn't use the Internet. They also trot out Ronny Cedeno at shortstop, which is only permissible since Pirate Fan exists in a kind of heroin-esque stupor where you can pretty much do anything you want. Bring in Reyes, and you'd actually get ESPN mentioning your franchise ahead of "They Also Played" levels, along with a tolerable top of the lineup once Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez return from injuries. Lord knows that no good player ever hurries back from the DL here, or ever thinks of signing here out of their own volition. That's one more reason the Mets should trade him here; they might just not like him very much. And who knows, it's not as if the NL Central looks impossible to achieve.

9) Oakland. Did you know that the A's were still in the league? I didn't, and I'm an A's fan. Billy Beane hasn't made a trade of note since sending away Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez (no, seriously, that happened: there's a reason why we no longer have much of any faith in him), and he's got a starting lineup of nine guys who could only get arrested because Hideki Matsui used to be famous. Reyes could come in and double the walk-up crowd at the moribund Coliseum, not that this is likely to take us into the land of non-prime numbers, and provide insurance for when Coco Crisp is ovulating. The team, as always, is right around .500, which is what happens when everyone can pitch, defend, and fail to score runs while pitching and defending. I assume they've got arms to move, along with an outfielder that becomes everything they need as soon as he goes to another club. Just forget I said anything.

8) Washington. Just two games below .500 despite having no Stephen Strassburg or Bryce Harper, and with Jayson Werth still hitting just .227 in the three hole. Reyes doesn't seem like he's necessary here, what with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa having tools and youth, but both of those guys aren't going to work out, and even if they do, bringing in Reyes means that you have a better idea at third base than Jerry Hairston Jr. and Alex Cora (no, seriously, Alex Cora) until Ryan Zimmerman comes back. You also give National Fan, assuming he exists, a reason to believe that the team is going to do more than sit back and wait for Saint Strassburg to come again before they try to win. Seeing how they spent money for Werth to prove just that, a Reyes move isn't out of the question.

7) Baltimore. Actually still treading water in the hyper-competitve AL East, the Orioles are making do with Robert Andino, who is making do for the injured JJ Hardy. In other words, the Oriole shortstop situation involves a lot of do-do, for a club that's been getting more out of their baby starting pitchers than anyone anticipated a month ago. Put Reyes in this lineup, and you've got a nice speed combo at the top of the order with Brian Roberts, the ability to get Nick Markakis' fading star out of prime at-bats, another option for when Mark Reynolds is ventilating the crowd (since Andino can always, well, play third, I guess), and a few more outs made when the opponent hits the ball on the ground. Something of an important point when the pitching is this young. They also, of course, have tons of scout-approved arms, having been terrible for so long. It would also be a winning move, since it would remind people that Baltimore actually has a team.

6) Kansas City. Currently having all kinds of success with an offense that's overachieving, with a fully loaded minor league system that could really do some damage in the next few years, the Royals are making do with Alcides Escobar, one of those prospects on his second organization that, in the magic words of the late great Casey Stengel, has a chance in the next few years to get older. Escobar gets on base 22% of the time, and there isn't a major leaguer alive who can play defense well enough to carry that. When guys like Jeff Francoeur revert to career levels, the Royals would do well to have the advantage that Reyes should provide over Esco. They certainly do have the minor leaguers to throw his way.

5) Atlanta. Now living with the exceptionally underwhelming Alex Gonzalez, the Braves certainly have had enough front-row viewing of Reyes over the years. Their lineup makes a lot more sense with Reyes in the leadoff role and Martin Prado hitting second, rather than Prado in the first spot. The Braves, of course, have tons of pitchers that look good in the minors, most of whom wash out in the bigs -- just the kind of cheap payoff that makes sense for a Reyes rental.

4) Detroit. Currently trending around .500 in the seemingly winnable AL Central, assuming that you don't believe in the mutual assured Cinderella action from the Royals and Indians. By taking on Reyes, they fix all kinds of problems, with Jhonny Peralta going back to a more defensively tenable third base position, Brandon Inge going to the bench that he so clearly deserves, and overmatched sophmore slumping center fielder Austin Jackson out of the leadoff spot that's clearly not helping him any. He'd make a lot of sense here; the only question is whether or not the Tigers have the prospects that would make it happen.

3) Cincinatti. Currently marking time with the empty calories and emptier appeal of Paul Janish, the Reds are a .500 team with big crowds, a dangerous offense, problematic starting pitching and a division that seems ripe for the taking. Plug him in here and you've got insurance for when Drew Stubbs isn't making contact, the potential for all kinds of big-inning shenanigans, more time out of the spotlight for scuffling Jay Bruce, and a clear indication to the fans that you want to conitinue winning now. Reyes may not be the kind of strikeout / steal / homer / low OBP threat that Dusty Baker usually likes in his leadoff outfielders, but even Dusty likes to win games.

2) New York Yankees. Hoo boy, does that Derek Jeter contract look like hell right about now. Jeet's hitting at some of the worst levels of his career, has a contract that's looking all kinds of albatrossy, and now seems to be developing those excuse injuries that the eldery get. Even when he's "right", his range is sad, and in the bandbox Bronx, extra outs are death to a pitching staff that mostly consists of men with shaky confidence and advanced age. We know that Reyes can handle the hothouse New York media environment (well, kind of), and we also know that Alex Rodriguez can't handle short any more. We also know the Yankees have money and prospects, and a need to win games to make sure they lock down the AL East. What we don't know is whether or not they'd have the stones to cuckold the Captain... but it's not as if the owner of the franchise is the same guys that paid him when he was great. My guess is that Reyes will be speculated to go here, but not actually do it. Besides, teams like to use the threat of the Yankees to bump up the price.

1) San Francisco. For once, the height of the rumor mill makes the most sense. The defending champion Giants are currently regretting the one-year rental of Miguel Tejada, who was never a good idea for his on-base skills, and whose range and power have clearly evaporated, or Mike Fontenot, a nice enough utility knife that is being stretched to full-time duty. Eventually Brandon Bolt and Pablo Sandoval come back to cover the corners with Aubrey Huff, but none of these guys is a plus defender the way Reyes is, and at some point the early season tolerability of Aaron Roward in the leadoff spot has got to end. Reyes is needed here to help draw down the gap between the Giants and the Rockies, or at the very least, the Giants and the NL wild-card race. With crowds filling the yard for the post World Series party, they can afford him, and that yard is made for Reyes to hit triples in. He should go here.

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